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What’s Ahead For Jobs In 2016?

By Diane Stafford, The Kansas City Star (TNS)

Expect more workplace churn in 2016. There will be more retirements among baby boomers, more maternity and paternity leaves — if not outright quits — among millennials, more voluntary departures as workers move to greener pastures. And there will be more hiring as employers seek to fill key openings, and more complaints that they can’t find good workers.

According to the best guesses of employers and labor market observers, the national unemployment rate will stay in the low 5 percent range and even lower in many metro areas. That’s “full employment” by many economists’ definition. But whether the job market feels that good to individuals will depend on many factors, including type of work and the organization.

In professions where there are more job vacancies than proven talent, qualified candidates will enjoy bidding wars for their services. For most workers, though, there’s likely to be little growth in pay incentives. Most employers are holding the line at 3 percent average raises _ the same as in 2015 and 2014. Since 2008, in fact, most workers haven’t caught up to the pay and benefits cuts they suffered since 2008.

The pay trend in organizations has continued to shift to “merit” bumps instead of across-the-board raises. But pay consultants note that merit bumps, of maybe 5 percent, aren’t big enough to be a motivator or retention agent. Bigger pay increases will continue to come from changing jobs, not staying in place.

Also ahead:

  • The U.S. Department of Labor has proposed new overtime rules affecting white-collar exemptions. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and several states are expanding efforts focused on disability, pregnancy and gender identity discrimination. Minimum wage legislation or ordinance proposals are pending in 15 jurisdictions around the country.
  • Collective bargaining will gather steam among white-collar professionals such as adjunct professors, resident doctors, lawyers and media staff. Meanwhile, some more traditional union jobs will have faster union election time frames, due to a new 10-day period set by the National Labor Relations Board.
  • Older workers who “retire” will continue to work _ as entrepreneurs, part-timers or contract workers in charge of their own hours and business. The contractor-instead-of-employee trend will continue for all ages, driven partly by individual preference and partly by employers who jettison employee benefits costs by contracting with independent workers instead of putting employees on costly benefits payrolls.
  • Employers will continue to develop social media policies given the proliferation of devices and connectivity available to employees no matter where they are.
  • Now that medical or recreational use of marijuana is legal in 23 states and Washington, D.C., more employers are updating their substance abuse policies _ most will get tougher, a few more lenient

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to Follow her online at and
(c)2015 The Kansas City Star. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Dave & Lorelle via Flickr

Hirers Bemoan Wasted Time With Some Job Applicants

By Diane Stafford, The Kansas City Star (TNS)

A paid summer internship at a Kansas City, Mo., consulting company remains unfilled as of this writing because applicants haven’t followed instructions.

A veterinarian at a small-animal hospital is frustrated because one-third to one-half of applicants scheduled for interviews failed to show up.

For all the justified complaints among job hunters about sending their applications into the “black holes” of corporate human resource departments, there’s a flip side.

Small businesses, in particular, simply don’t have time to continue to pursue applicants who express interest but don’t follow through with paperwork or appointments.

The director of administration at the above-mentioned consulting office was blunt about being disappointed in a promising candidate: “After prompting him twice, he’s not sent back the completed application. I’m not going to chase these kids down! If they can’t follow simple instructions in a timely manner, we don’t have time to mentor them in our office this summer.”

The veterinarian is wondering whether applicants are taking advantage of the unemployment system by professing to have applied for work but aren’t completing a real application. He said his office schedules interviews with candidates who submit online applications but, “They don’t call, they don’t email, they just disappear. Of course, we don’t pursue them after this happens.”

The Internet has made it easy to apply for jobs; shoe leather not required. Many employers are inundated with both qualified applicants who deserve thoughtful consideration and incredibly unqualified applicants who are simply pushing buttons. When hirers find a good candidate, they’re understandably interested in moving forward with the application process — just like job hunters who believe they’re right for the position.

But, as is the case in so many ways, bad apples taint the barrel. Applicants who follow the rules in the time frame allotted are penalized by employers’ suspicions that they, too, don’t really want the job or won’t justify the employer’s time and expense vested in them.

In a perfect world, applicants — even those frustrated by a longer-than-expected period of job hunting — would be more judicious about applying only for jobs that truly are right for them based on their experience, talents, and interests. And, if they hear back from a prospective employer, they would respond promptly, and clearly express their intent to pursue the hiring process or back away.

In an equally perfect world, employers would have more time and a terrific culling system to separate promising, credible applicants from those who are merely fishing or abusing the system.

Clearly, perfection isn’t going to happen on either side. It’s up to individual conscience and business conditions to decide how much serious effort goes into any workplace matchmaking. Despite the odds, some matches will be made.

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to Follow her online at and

(c)2015 The Kansas City Star, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Photo: Kathryn Decker, Flickr

Diane Stafford: Are You Willing To Relocate For Work? More People Are

By Diane Stafford, The Kansas City Star (TNS)

Nearly 1 in 7 job-hunting managers and executives moved to a different location in the last half of 2014, the highest relocation rate since 2009.

That analysis, from the outplacement firm of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, hints as to why the job market may continue to seem difficult for some searchers:

The applicant pool isn’t confined to one’s hometown, so there’s more competition for every opening.

After the housing market collapse in 2008, many homeowners became stuck in place. They owed more on their mortgages than they could get by selling their homes. They couldn’t afford to move, so their job searches were geographically confined.

At the time, given that we’re a nation of two-income households, it became hard for both wage earners to get move-enticing offers. So most couples stayed put.

Now that the housing market has turned around in much of the United States, the reluctance or inability to move has lessened.

Meanwhile, job growth continues and unemployment is down. Existing workers are more confident about testing the waters for opportunities elsewhere, and some unemployed people are re-entering the job market.

“At the end of last year, there were more than 70 metropolitan areas with an unemployment rate of 4 percent or lower,” said John Challenger, CEO of the outplacement firm. “Employers in these areas are undoubtedly struggling to find workers from the local talent pool. So, for job seekers who are willing to relocate, the list of cities with good opportunities keeps getting longer.”

If you’d like to do your own research about job market health in various locations, you can start at, the data-rich site operated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The home page gives a lot of search options, including new regional tabs. You can dig deeper by clicking on “Subjects,” “Data Tools” and “Economic Releases” on the drop-down menu bars.

To search for specific opportunities, don’t forget the big job boards such as, which are searchable by location, career category and keywords. If you have your eye on a certain company, its website is the optimum place to job hunt for its own postings.

If you want some general information about industries or occupations and members of those sectors, you might visit a large library and review the Encyclopedia of Associations. You can find the headquarters, and maybe local chapters, of professional and industrial associations to learn more about their fields.

If you have your eye on a particular city, be sure to check the local chamber of commerce, the city hall and any local economic research organizations for information about the community. Commercial and residential real estate offices also are good sources of housing and cost-of-living data.

Finally, if you get to the point of weighing a relocation job offer, be sure to negotiate for moving expenses. Some employers, for some jobs, are paying them.

© 2015 The Kansas City Star, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Image: Flazingo Photos, via Flickr